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Solar project powering up Tūrangi homes

Together with Tūwharetoa Health Charitable Trust (THCT) and Maru Energy Trust (Maru), we're installing solar panels and new hot water cylinders in houses at Tūrangi.

The pioneering project will see excess solar generated energy, heat hot water cylinders in recipient households. With hot water heating accounting for around 30% of household electricity costs, pilot households are set to benefit from significant cost savings while helping to support renewable energy targets.

Frequently asked questions

What is the name of this pilot project?

Tūwharetoa Solar Project.

How was the pilot project established?

TLC applied for funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) through the Public and Māori Housing Renewable Energy Fund to trial renewable energy solutions that improve the wellbeing of people in public and Māori housing.

Who is involved in managing the project?

TLC, THCT, and Maru agreed to collaborate to:

  1. Commission the installation of solar panels on four selected homes.
  2. Install three new hot water cylinders.
  3. Share the surplus solar energy generation to five selected homes through a peer-to-peer software platform.

Assist with the collection of data to analyse the impact of this project.

How many solar panels are to be installed on the homes and what sort of panels are they?

Up to 16 solar panels on each home, which are REC branded units with a 370W power output.

How long are the solar panels expected to last?

They have a 25-year warranty.

Does the homeowner own the solar panels?

Yes, at the end of the 12-month pilot.

Does TLC own the solar panels?

No – TLC have designed the project and are managing the delivery of the pilot with THCT and Maru.

Who gets new hot water cylinders and why are they needed?

The recipients are people that have been short listed by THCT and Maru. Part of the trial is to see how different hot water cylinders respond to using the distributed energy (solar) and how much actual energy savings can be achieved.

Who owns the new hot water cylinders?

The homeowner will own the new hot water cylinder.

Who is responsible for maintaining the new hot water cylinders?

This will be the homeowners responsibility.

Does the homeowner own the power generated from the solar panels?

The homeowner receives all the power they can use from the solar panels, any extra power that is generated is gifted to another household on the pilot.

Does TLC own the power generated from the solar panels?

No, the homeowner owns the power.

Are fees charged for the peer-to-peer trading platform?

No fees are charged to the participants for the peer-to-peer software platform.

Is there a particular electricity retailer recipients of the power need to be a customer of?

All participants will use Ecotricity as their energy retailer as they are partnering in the development of the platform.

How are the recipients of the solar and hot water cylinders selected?

THCT and Maru are working together to shortlist recipients with kaumātua and tamariki as a priority, where possible. The final selection for solar installation will be made by the solar installer inspecting the properties for suitability.

Does TLC get to decide who the participants are and who gets solar installations?

No, this decision is made by the THCT, Maru and the solar installer.

Are there any batteries installed as part of the project?

There are no batteries, any surplus energy generated is shared, not stored.

If the homeowner installs batteries or more solar panels, would they own them?

Yes. For a period of 12-months any surplus power that is generated must be shared. After the pilot has finished, the homeowner can use their assets for any purpose the like.

How much money does TLC make off the deal?

Just the normal line charges, as billed by the participants electricity retailer.

What is TLC charging the homeowner in the way of ongoing costs for the pilot?

Nothing, there are no immediate or ongoing costs for any homeowner or participants. There are no contracts, fees or ongoing costs after the project has ended.

How does the excess power get back into the grid?

Each installation has an inverter and an export/import meter installed.

Does TLC need to put any additional cables/lines in to take the excess energy away from the panels?

No – the initial selection was done based on households that already had the necessary infrastructure to export the amount of energy that the solar panels generate.

How will the participants know how much excess energy is available to gift?

There will be an App or website that can be accessed where participants can see the generation.

What is the process for one household to be able to gift the excess energy to another household?

The peer-to-peer software platform and smart meter monitor the import and export of energy in real-time. This is something completely new to the New Zealand electricity market. That is why this trial is so important. Ecotricity is our partner in providing this service for the trial.

Does TLC need to authorise/approve the transfer of the excess power to recipients?


Why is TLC doing this project?

Working with THCT is an opportunity for us to work alongside one of the largest healthcare service providers on our network to make a meaningful difference for customers. Developing a peer-to-peer software platform which will enable our community to share power amongst themselves is one way we can give back to our customers. Being an energy enabler is an important part of what we do here at TLC.

How does this project support TLC’s vision of Growing Communities with Energy?

It supports TLC’s four strategic pou designed to help people thrive. The project will make energy more accessible for our community. Utilising renewable energy and communities’ ability to share it is the most sustainable way forward. By utilising our network to share energy this is far more efficient than other expensive options like batteries. Our community’s energy demands are rising, and decarbonisation could cause a rise in inequality. This pilot will help the sharing of energy – growing communities’ ability to generate power in the places that are best suited to area’s that are suited for solar and then sharing that energy to others on the network.

How does this pilot project support Hapū and Whānau development?

This kaupapa supports the focus on long-term whānau wellbeing and enables regional development for the people of Tūwharetoa.

If a households are interested in being part of a similar project, who do they contact.

This project is limited to nine households. Once the pilot is complete, we will be able to discuss the opportunity for further participants and are willing to work with organisations to secure funding for similar projects.

How will the project benefit the people who receive the excess energy?

We believe recipients will benefit in several ways including reduced energy costs, greater accessibility to energy, and improved wellbeing. Participants will also be supporting the country’s push for cleaner energy solutions by using electricity generated from the sun’s renewable resource. This also supports energy education through our communities and rohe.

What is a peer-to-peer trading platform?

It is a platform which enables the people to allocate or gift excess energy to chosen households. Basically, it is where one customer can nominate other customers who are with the same electricity retailer (Ecotricity) to share their surplus energy with.

If I am someone who receives the excess energy, does this means my lines charges disappear?

No, the lines portion of the charges remain as we still need to operate the network, including the power lines which take the excess power away from the solar panels and return it to the households receiving it.

If I am someone receiving the excess energy, can I change power companies?

For the duration of the pilot, all participants are required to have Ecotricity as their retailer.

Who is responsible for maintaining the panels?

The solar panels are under the manufacturer’s warranty. However, the panels need to be cleaned to ensure they produce the most energy possible. The households will learn how to maintain the panels with support from the installer/supplier, TLC & THCT.

If I am someone receiving the excess energy, how will I know when I am using the gifted solar power?

The peer-to-peer platform shares energy in real-time, so when the sun is shining on the panels, and they are producing energy, the energy is being shared. Shared energy will be shown as a credit on the bill from Ecotricity.

What happens to the extra power at the end of the trial, do the participants still have to give it away?

No once the trial is complete participants will be able to export all the surplus power and get paid for it. The solar panels and all they produce will be owned by the participants.